MaRocko! Rocks, fossils and minerals….

Along the roadside in the High and Anti Atlas and down to the south east of Morocco boys bound into the paths of on coming cars to offer crystalline mementos of Morocco and rocks, fossils and minerals are staples of most tourist shops in the south. Before purchasing you might want to read these notes:

Geode

Geode – Tennis ball size specimens of crystals in a hollow geode costs around ₤12/24$ in theUKor theUS, on the Moroccan hard shoulder they may cost you more. Brilliant orange and red geodes and slices of rock crystal (quartz) look attractive but are unknown to natural science as are the quartz geodes given an iridescent metal coating by vendors.

Ammonites

Ammonites – Attractive spirals of ammonites (from Carboniferous to Jurassic) in Morocco they can be bought sliced and polished as well as raw. Check the center of the spiral of the ammonites and at the ridge around its shell to check how far natural features have been ‘enhanced’ by a chisel.

Tribulites

Trilobites – Slightly older ammonites, trilobites often appear in shops as identical beige-colored fossils on grey slate. In nature they are rarely so perfect – beware plaster casts. The early trilobite paradoxis is about the size of a hand, with long whisker like spines. A deep-sea inhabitant, it is often found looking rather squashed sideways, where the silts on which it lived have been sheared by pressure. The Calymene and Phacops types of trilobites are about 200 million years younger Paradoxides . They measure about 2 inches long, with crab like outer skeleton. The half rounded shield-like skull, often found separated from the exo-skeleton, can appear in a shop with the rest of the skeleton carved around it as a tribute to the Moroccan craftsmanship.

Nautilus

In the back limestone regions near Erfoud, the white crystalline shapes of belemnites, ammonites and nautilus are cross sectioned and polished to emphasize the internal structure.

Information from Lonely Planet.  www.lonelyplanet.com

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Contemporary Moroccan jewellers- Call out

Tina Riley is in the process of curating an exhibition called Ice and Sand to take place in the Uk in October 2012.

She’d like to hear from high quality Moroccan contemporary jewellers who perhaps give a modern twist to traditional silver Bedouin style.

Berber head-dress.

 If you think your work might fit this description please contact her at tina@rileyarts.com with links to your work and she’ll be able to give you more information about the show if relevant.

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Arab Moroccan Weddings

Who goes?… Who doesn’t?

Weddings, being one of the most significant ceremonies and gatherings in any culture, reveal and often exaggerate a culture and expose traditions. Arabic Moroccan weddings do just that. Kept awake all night on feasts of meat dishes then sugar injections of tea and cookies until dawn, guests ( family, friends and often the rest of the local community) gather to celebrate the unison of two people and their clans.

What time?…… Who knows

No one is ever quite sure when a wedding officially starts or when it finishes, sometimes the bride and groom don’t not even arrive until midnight, when the night is still considered young.

Typical Fassi Thrones

Thrones.

Bride and groom have table/thrones that they are paraded around the party on, then there are often static thrones where they exchange dates and milk ( symbols of love and fertility), pose for photos and videos and are greeted and congratulated by their guests. There’s nothing like a throne to make you feel special, particularly when you are lifted at shoulder height and danced around the dance floor on one.

 What will she be wearing?? There is a variety.

Moroccan Bride with Henna

The bride can adorn up to 7 or 8 types of costumes of varying fashions throughout the celebration. She is persistently shadowed by a “Nagafa’, who is, lets say, wardrobe and makeup assistant and general bride ‘fluffer’.  A large part of the evening is spent “backstage” changing into the next outfit. The diverse cultures ofMoroccomakes what the bride will adorn also variable, nowadays most will also wear a western brides white silk dress. Kaftans of any bright color are acceptable for a bride of a Moroccan wedding. If there is any trace of Berber blood then the bride will at one point appear in traditional Berber garment.

Head-dressage? Oh yes..

Traditional Fassi Brides Headdress

The Fassi headdress seems the most extreme and certainly heavy. Of course in any culture head-dresses are common for brides but this one in particular is excessive in both size and weight. Brides talk of its weight and restriction of movement.  Other head gear can be the simple veils and definitely crowns or tiaras.  Hair is heavily sculpted matching the usually heavily applied make-up.

Of course there are traditions and also new modern elements and influences to any wedding and couples choices. Common factors are…  Moroccan weddings are all night events if not longer, sugar is a necessity to keep up for so long, music is at high volume, and dancing is recommended.

More on traditional Berber weddings another time….

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Fabric buttons transformed into colorful textile jewelry.

Moroccan woven buttons

One of the many things the Jews left behind in Morocco was the art of tailoring and its bi-product the textile button. These hand woven gems are made all over Morocco but are more commonly found in what were richly populated Jewish towns such as Sefrou, in the Fez region. Many of the old medina residential streets are peppered with women who gather outside in the early summer evenings to spin the thread and/or hand weave the buttons. The purpose of these buttons is rarely to fasten but more to adorn the front of djellabas and Kaftans.

Detail of button on a Moroccan Kaftan

The buttons, simple as they may seem, can be made into many different types of knot. Some of the more common styles are Jacard, wrda and bildi but be assured there are women out there with creative minds who are creating with new knots and fashions.

The Threads

It was three years ago that L’Association D’Artisanat Des Femmes De Khenifra under the supervision of Lynda Zahava of the Peace Corps started to produce necklaces assembled from these Jellaba/kaftan buttons. Now there are several Moroccan cooperatives as well as Moroccan Bling that use these threaded trinkets as a material for jewelry collections. Sold also in tassel shops in Marrakech they may soon be transformed into some kind of home decoration. You heard it here first……….

A Moroccan Bling Creation

Visit our etsy shop to see more textile button creations.

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Bedouin Bonbon hits Fez’ first pop up shop

Fez‘ first pop up shop, titled Bedouin Bonbon, has just landed in the Bouanania district of Talla K’bira, in the ancient medina. Open for just 2 weeks, this pop up shop acts as a platform for the art works and jewelry by Sefrou based artist and culture coordinator Jess Stephens.

jalaba button bracelet by Jess

A pop-up retail space is a venue that is temporary — the space could be a sample sale one day and host a private cocktail party the next evening. The trend involves “popping-up” one day, then disappearing anywhere from one day to several weeks later. These shops, while small and temporary, can build up interest by consumer exposure. Pop-up retail allows a company to create a unique environment that engages their customers, as well as generates a feeling of relevance and interactivity.

In this case Bedouin Bonbon participates on a fringe and grass roots level with The !7th Sacred Music Festival, enriching the cultural experience of Fez medina residents and visitors alike.  Bedouin Bonbon is open from 10 am to 8 p.m. until the 17th of June only collaborating creative ideas with Moroccan materials.

Jess at Bedouin Bonbon

For a direct line contact Jess on 06 45 22 32 03

For those unable to actually visit the pop up shop go to etsy.com

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The Fibulae – a Roman safety pin!

Fibula (Latin “to fasten”) is an ancient brooch found in the Berber/Amazigh culture of Morocco. Technically, the Latin term fibulae refers specifically to Roman brooches, however, the term is widely used to refer to brooches from the entire ancient and early medieval world that continue Roman forms. Unlike most modern brooches, fibulae were not only decorative; they originally served a practical function to fasten clothes, including cloaks.

The spread of technologically advanced workshops in the Roman Empire led to more complex fibula designs. Bows were cast in more complex forms, hinges appeared alongside bilateral springs and a wide variety of plate designs were introduced.

Fibulae from the Metropolitan Museum. N.Y.

The Ring, or annular, fibula or brooch is extremely hard to date as the design for utilitarian pieces was almost unchanged from the 2nd to the 14th centuries AD. If there is decoration, this is likely to indicate whether a given ring fibula is Roman-era fibula or a medieval brooch. Obviously there are many a fibulae found in Morocco today that date a mere handful of years.

A singular feature of North African Berber costume is the use of the fibula, an ancient article of jewelry that holds capes and other garments in place. Fibulae from the Islamic period consist of two triangular end pieces, which are pinned into the clothing, and a chain that connects them. This piece in silver is an imposing example of a relatively rare type.

Though other classical cultures around the Mediterranean used fibulae, the geometric outline and interior design of this piece are unique to Morocco, and can be found in local textiles as well. In these designs have talismanic properties and symbolize magic, protection, and good luck.

The modern version!

The descendant off the fibulae, the modern safety-pin, remains in use today.

Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Wikipedia

Click here for Moroccan Fibulae Earrings at out Etsy shop.

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Millifiori beads; know what you are wearing.

African Trade Bead/Millifiori

These pieces of colored glass, found in many countries over the globe, can also be named as African Trade Beads, Slave Beads, Love Beads, Mosaic Beads, or Venetian Trade Beads . In Morocco Millefiori are found more commonly in the Agadir region, specifically Guelmim, once a camel trade, cross roads town and of course Marakesh where no stone is unturned and traded for.

The beads were produced between the 16th and 20th centuries in Venice Italy, formerly an important center of commerce.  Being a form of currency, popular in the slave trade, these beds turn up in markets and boutiques in Africa, the Americas and parts of Asia. The intricate droplets of glass were exchanged for human cargo as well as ivory, gold and other goods desired in Europe and around the world.

Millifiori

Millefiori translates from Italian as a thousand flowers and these now jewellery pieces consist of intertwined lengths of glass that were bound and stretched at a high temperature and then cut into cylinder shapes.  Beads such as the kiffa beads of Mauritania are thought to have resulted from women creating powdered glass beads to mimic the appearance of Millefiori beads.

You can distinguish between replicas and the real thing by looking at the strength of the color – mass produced millefiori beads tend to have greater color intensity.

If you have more information on Miliifiori beads in Morocco please comment on this post below.

Visit our online Moroccan Jewellery Shop at www.etsy.com/shop/jessiculture

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